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Duluth makes $366 million wish list as part of plan to garner federal money

The city of Duluth has made a list and checked it twice, compiling 100 construction or improvement projects that would create 3,865 jobs at the cost of $366 million. Now, city leaders are hoping the U.S. Congress and president will play Santa Cla...

The city of Duluth has made a list and checked it twice, compiling 100 construction or improvement projects that would create 3,865 jobs at the cost of $366 million. Now, city leaders are hoping the U.S. Congress and president will play Santa Claus, determining that the city has been nice, and approve the spending.

The wish list is part of a "Main Street Stimulus" plan of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that would put $150 billion into infrastructure projects across the country starting next year. The stimulus plan would need to be approved by Congress and either by President George Bush or President-elect Barack Obama when he takes office.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness said the city moved quickly when the mayors' group put out a survey seeking ready-to-go projects, getting input from community leaders on what should be included.

"I've sensed there's some opportunity here to move some infrastructure projects forward and put Duluthians to work and, in large part, the money is going to flow to those communities that have shovel-ready projects," he said.

Ness cautioned that many of the projects on the list are a result of casting the net as wide as possible and have not been prioritized or approved for spending.

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"It was important for the U.S. Conference of Mayors process; what they were looking for was what is the need, what is the potential for job creation across the United States," he said. "We wanted to put as many projects as we could with as high a number of jobs created to help them in their advocacy role for promotion of this Main Street Stimulus package."

Funding requests include $77 million for transit projects, including $31 million for a transit connectivity platform; $25 million in water and wastewater initiatives, including

$6 million for a Spirit Mountain snow-making facility; and $51 million in projects for the airport, including money that would go toward runway reconstruction.

The Duluth school district also has requested a piece of the pie, seeking $76 million for school modernization projects that would include renovations to Ordean, Lowell and Denfeld, as well as constructing new Laura McArthur and Lester Park schools.

Ness said U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, the House Transportation chairman, is trying to push forward a separate stimulus package that would pay for transportation projects, some of which would go toward Duluth.

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